Matias Duarte on Android’s UI: It’s Only About 33% Of Where I Want It To Be


Google’s Matias Duarte is more than just a snappy dresser, he’s also Google’s Senior Director of Android User Experience. Today, the man responsible for taking Android’s design out of the stone-age and into the brave new world of Holo UI, was congratulated on the official Android Google+ page after being recognized as one of Fast Company’s “50 Designers Shaping the Future.”

While most Google+ users were quick to send Matias their praise and congratulatory messages for all his hard work (pre-ICS, Android wasn’t exactly known for its beauty), the thread quickly became overrun by users who jumped on the opportunity to point out Android’s current design flaws. It’s true. Android isn’t totally “there” yet — anyone who spends a lot of time in OS can tell you that. This general feeling was also echoed by Matias who responded to design criticisms saying:

It’s true, we still have a lot of work to do. Personally I feel like I’ve gotten only about a third of the way to where I want to be with regards to consistency, responsiveness, and polish.

Better get back to work!

If you thought things were looking pretty polished already in Android 4.1 Jelly Bean despite uneven icons and general UI inconsistencies — there’s still a lot of work to be done but you can rest assured that Matias Duarte is on it.

[Google+ 1, Google+ 2 | Via BGR]

Chris Chavez
I've been obsessed with consumer technology for about as long as I can remember, be it video games, photography, or mobile devices. If you can plug it in, I have to own it. Preparing for the day when Android finally becomes self-aware and I get to welcome our new robot overlords.

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  1. I am slightly shocked that google would release an unfinished UI but the good thing about android is the fact that so many companies add their own skins and stuff that it hides any of stock 4.0s shortcomings…which was even better pre-ics since everything 2.3 and earlier was horrible to look at in my opinion.

    Can’t wait to see google’s 100 percent finish :D

    1. I don’t think Android will ever hit 100% — but then again, neither will any OS. Jelly Bean looks almost flawless in my opinion. But, as someone who spends all day looking into his phone, I have noticed some of the smaller inconsistencies. Google just needs to tie up some of these loose ends and they’ll be good :)

      1. What loose ends Chris? I’m not asking in a condensing way. Just asking because I wanna notice them too!

          1. I agree with the back button issue. But a couple of these stem from not knowing Android or its apps. The icons aren’t opening the wrong apps. Latitude is an activity in maps. If you hit the maps icon later its opening where you last left off…Latitude. Its not a separate app.

            Google Voice is not for text messages…hence the name Voice. He may use it for text only but I use it as my work phone. Don’t assume that its just free SMS to everybody else.

    2. Never be surprised when Google releases something unfinished. With their track record I’m surprised Android doesn’t have a huge beta stamp on boot.

      1. As opposed to their competitor’s ‘better late than never’ approach.

        1. Touché! Though, I’m mostly unhappy with the way carriers and manufacturers jerk us around by not updating to the most up to date version the phone can handle. However, it doesn’t affect me one way or the other so long as I can unlock and rom mine. And besides, the comment was more of a poke at Gmails 5 year beta status. Tech geeks can be so touchy!

      2. You mean like Siri and Apple Maps?

    3. It’s not unfinished. It’s a work in progress just like every other operating system on the market.

      1. Work in progress= Unfinished
        Just saying :)

    4. You don’t know Google at all then. “Release early, release often”. They believe in iterative development. No need in storming down a road with no idea of how anything will work out with the end users.

  2. There is always room for improvement. Android will never be perfect nor will any other OS. But I think soon android will be the best looking OS. Android just feels more personal.

  3. It is pretty exciting to see him say that. Means he has plenty of plans for the future and based on how Android’s UI has made leaps and bounds, I’m sure it’ll be good.

  4. This must make Apple’s iOS team nervous. For more than a year now, they’ve been trying to catch up with Android, and now they hear that Android still has plenty of ambition to do more stuff? I can hear the gnashing of teeth from over here.

    1. They might be nervous if they could understand honest, candid comments. All they known is “This new design flaw we just introduced is the greatest thing ever and if you don’t upgrade to it right away you wont be one of the cool kids!”. They live in a world of faux perfection, where admitting there’s room for improvement = failure and potentially getting fired.

  5. Project Olive Oil!

    1. Android may be a little behind in this area, but I prefer it over Apple’s Project… Vaseline…

      1. Comment of the day :)

      2. I want Android to have the same attention to detail that Apple had before Steve Jobs came along. We don’t need the jelly belly scrollbars, the fake leather trim or the wheel of fortune number pickers. Everything should be designed to be consistent and with the fewest number of steps.
        It’s not so easy. I remember how the “Zen of Palm” failed once you wanted to play movies from your PC or text files past a certain size to your Palm. It required all kinds of conversions and hacks once you got past the basic stuff. The system needs to be able to adapt to change.

        1. What’s your beef with the new scollable number pickers? You can still just tap to manually enter a number, but I use the scroll all the time.

  6. I like everything for the most part on Android, aside from the “incoming call” graphic which used to be pretty bland. When a call comes through I picture fireworks, balloons and puppies rolling on a pillow

  7. I wonder where android will be in another 4 years…

    1. The difference between the g1 days and now is just amazing.

  8. If it’s 1/3 of the way there then I’m interested to see what the future brings… Jelly Bean is gorgeous. If only a quality phone would come to bring out its pure and full potential.

    Google, the Nexus 4 better be a masterpiece.

    1. The GNex is still doing great. I’d rather have Google wait until quadcore is compatible with the LTE.

      1. Well bottom line is the GNex needs a Q4 update. Quad core is meaningless to me with a chip like the Snapdragon S4. If anything it should have LTE battery life and a camera on par with the iPhone 5. They could also make it a little slimmer and lighter than the current GNex (on par with the HSPA+ version) due to the more power efficient chip requiring a smaller battery. That and other misc. improvements to the hardware and I’d be happy to get that for my next phone. I wouldn’t buy a non-Nexus again.

        1. I’m with you on the never buying a non-Nexus phone again, but the last thing I wanna see is a smaller battery. Also, the new s4 quad core is compatible with LTE, as well as the quad core exynos

  9. Make it more than 4 rows and columns. Sick of it

    1. I would LOVE to see DPI or “resolution” settings like on desktop OS’s. Right now, the only alternative is using a 3rd party launcher.

      1. I think they should adopt some of CM’s options and enhancements. A lot more people would then be happy with google’s stock roms.

  10. The article Matias was responding to can be found here:

  11. And Mattias’ comment is why.#Google will continue to innovate and lead the way. Never being satisfied with a product is true innovative spirit

  12. LOL i love the 14 down votes because i said Android is unfinished :D

    1. I want u to shove it down ur throat

      1. aww someone is mad tonight. Hug?

        1. *jumps in the way* Okay! xD

          1. :)

      2. life too rough on you buddy? sue everybody like apple lol

    2. I said pretty much the same thing but got 14 upvotes. Just sayin’ O_o

      1. you are Chris Chavez, of course you get 14 upvotes :D haha

        1. I typically get more downvotes than upvotes for the things I say around here. Lol

  13. All Matias has to do is get Google to buy Apex Launcher and present it in Key Lime Pie. Give 5 “stock” set ups for lazy people to jump into like “business set-up”, “student set up” “grandma set up” “social set up.” Let the rest of us design our own home screens- including consistent icon AND widget themes and more/less icon rows. There is more than enough beauty in live wallpapers.

    Underneath the launcher, the UI is nearly perfect. They just need to stop hiding buttons and they still use menus far too much.

    The first thing millions of us do when we buy an Android phone is download Apex, Nova, or Go Launcher and get rid of all the homescreen work that Mathias, HTC, Samsung, etc. do.

    1. I still don’t understand the hate of menus

  14. Matias Duarte is a former webOS guy. Responsible for much of the webOS’s UI. I would like to see some of webOS integrated into Android. webOS was great….the hardware it ran on sucked but the OS was a great mobile platform. I love Android but I miss some of the features of webOS.

  15. Uneven icon sizes does bug me and they won’t fix it until they make their developer guidelines a little more strick. Apple solved this problem by giving their developers a box in which to design their app icons. You can replicate this effect with some launcher although it would be good to see some stock standardization.

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